As the fallout from the tumultuous events of the last 48 hours spread throughout the Baltimore Orioles' organization today, deposed general manager Frank Wren remained silent, deposed manager Ray Miller spoke out, and the Orioles began to get their bearings in the talent pools of their twin candidate searches.
The dismissals of Miller on Wednesday night and Wren on Thursday night left the Orioles with openings for the two most important jobs in their baseball operation. Miller was let go when the Orioles decided not to exercise their option on his contract for next season. Wren was fired over a "season-long series of incidents," according to a statement from the Orioles.
"I think everybody expected Ray to possibly be fired," said Orioles first baseman Jeff Conine, echoing the general sentiment within the organization. "But I was in total shock that Frank was included in [the overhaul]. There are probably things that occurred [between Wren and ownership] that I don't know about, but I know Frank is a good baseball man and will wind up with something else in baseball."
As the Orioles begin to identify candidates for the two openings, other teams with openings have gotten head starts. The most sought-after managerial candidate, former Milwaukee Brewers manager Phil Garner, interviewed for the vacant Chicago Cubs job today.
Garner, whom Wren and Angelos had together identified as the Orioles' top candidate before Wren was fired, said today he has not been contacted by the Orioles.
Asked to name his criteria for choosing his new employer, Garner said, "I'm looking for resources and a good working relationship [with ownership], not necessarily in that order. I like to feel very comfortable with whomever my boss is, and comfortable that we all have the same objective in mind."
Boston Red Sox bench coach Grady Little, a veteran of 16 seasons as a minor league manager, including five seasons in the Orioles' organization, has emerged as one of the leading candidates should the Orioles fail to attract one of the top names, such as Garner, former Cubs manager Jim Riggleman or current Atlanta Braves hitting coach Don Baylor.
Former Colorado Rockies manager Jim Leyland, reached today at his home outside Pittsburgh, reiterated his intention to remain in retirement. Orioles sources said Angelos contacted Leyland last weekend. Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa also had been contacted by Angelos, according to baseball sources, but he signed a two-year contract extension with St. Louis today.
The top internal managerial candidates are first-base coach Marv Foley, third-base coach Sam Perlozzo and bench coach Eddie Murray.
The top internal GM candidates are director of player personnel Syd Thrift, who was the Pirates GM from 1985 to '88, and director of player development Tom Trebelhorn, who managed the Brewers from 1986 to '91 and the Cubs in 1994.
In their GM search, as in their search for a manager, the Orioles are behind the two other teams that have GM openings. The Anaheim Angels already have interviewed two candidates, including former New York Yankees GM Bob Watson, and the Seattle Mariners have interviewed at least six.
White Sox assistant GM Dan Evans, who was the Orioles' runner-up a year ago when they hired Wren, is expected to be an Orioles favorite again. But he had not been contacted by the Orioles as of this evening. Evans already has interviewed for the Mariners' job.
The Angels, who like the Orioles have openings for both manager and GM, have made it clear that their new GM will be given the power to hire the new manager, according to baseball sources. Angelos's unwillingness to grant Wren the same hiring powers led in part to Wren's dissatisfaction with the Orioles.
Today, citing the advice of counsel, Wren again declined to comment on the accusations leveled against him. Although Wren and the Orioles have agreed to a settlement, which will pay him a portion of the $900,000 remaining on his contract, the agreement has not been finalized.
Among the reasons for Wren's firing, according to a statement released by the Orioles on Thursday night, were Wren's decision to order a team plane to take off without Cal Ripken, who was running late and had phoned ahead; an unspecified number of "extremely negative comments about various personnel" made by Wren, and his refusal to apologize to one of those people; and a "season-long series of incidents involving a variety of personnel matters, both with the front office staff and players."
However, Angelos and Wren clashed over several other matters that were not brought up in the statement. Chief among them was Wren's insistence, beginning in April, that Miller be fired. Angelos also criticized several of Wren's free agent signings, including the four-year, $16 million deal for closer Mike Timlin.
Meanwhile, in New Athens, Ohio, Miller was beginning his new life away from baseball. Today, he spoke out for the first time about his dismissal, defending his record, reiterating his praise for Angelos and saving his pointed comments for the players and the front office.
"What bugs me is, you usually see managers get fired when everything goes downhill," Miller said. "But with me, it was only one thing: Our bullpen was atrocious. That part bothers me. . . . But the manager is responsible for the won/lost record, I guess."
Miller, who went 157-167 in two seasons with the Orioles, said he would love to have stayed another year because, "We had turned a corner." Yet he had nothing but kind words for Angelos, who handpicked Miller to replace Davey Johnson after the 1997 season.
"I had a great working relationship with Peter Angelos," Miller said. "It bothers me when people say he's intrusive. I never saw any of that. He would congratulate me when things were going well, and he would try to pump me up when things were going bad. There's not an owner in baseball who pays millions of dollars who wouldn't want to okay the choice of manager."
Miller was less conciliatory toward Wren, who began lobbying Angelos for Miller's dismissal beginning in April.
"Frank's a hard-working man. Why he didn't support me publicly, I don't know," Miller said. "I tried to do everything he wanted done, including playing the kids. But apparently he didn't want to plug me in on some things."
Miller also implied Wren was at fault for saddling him with an aging bullpen that blew 20 saves in the first half of the season and was riddled with fragile, unresilient arms.
"Arthur [Rhodes], I had him two years and he was available about a third of the time," Miller said. "[Mike] Fetters, [Heathcliff] Slocumb, [Jim] Corsi. Those guys are older and they can't pitch very much. Same with Jesse [Orosco]. You couldn't leave him in there too long, or he'd walk somebody."
Miller said he does not have any plans to get back into baseball, and said he probably will not listen to any offers, if they come. "I'm going to enjoy life," he said.
Baltimore was "the only place I wanted to be, and they took it away from me. They won't get anyone who works as hard or cares as much, especially about Orioles history. I was proud to have had that job. I wish I could have done better."